Once I read a book about a child who was kidnapped (I can’t read those kinds of books anymore, so this must have been many years ago). The boy was kidnapped as a toddler, and they brainwashed him. They gave him a new name, they called themselves his Mum and Dad, they created an entire life for him. From the outside, it was so normal – school, baseball, family suppers – and they were satisfied that he had forgotten his old life and that this was their happily ever after.

But there was still something there, buried deep in his heart, he knew that something wasn’t right. He had dreams of his old life, recurring dreams of his mother and his father, his old room. And even though he was happy and his kidnappers were rather good to him, he wasn’t surprised, not one bit, to eventually discover that he had been kidnapped and that his entire life was a lie. When he finally was restored to his real home, every one worried about how it would go because, really, they were all strangers to him. But he saw his real mother, his real father, and he saw his home and he wept and simply said that he always knew, he always knew, the truth was there in his heart the whole time.

I sometimes feel that way about us and God. I feel like maybe we’re all exiles. 

We think we’re in our regular life, our real life, but there is this thing, this sense, this memory of something better, something more, something that is everything good and perfect still stuck in our hearts.

And even when everything is good or we’ve achieved everything we ever wrote on our Bucket List or pinned onto Pinterest boards or we accomplish some long list of the world’s version of success and we achieve celebrity or money or the house with the kids and the dog, we still know, deep in our hearts, we’re exiles and something, something isn’t right here.

It’s not enough. All of the stuff, all of the things, all of the experiences, all of the good or the thrilling or sexy stuff in the world is a smokescreen of goodness. It’s an approximation of something real to convince every one else that we’re fine, we’re normal but really we’re walking around and we know the whole time that we don’t quite fit, we know something is off, we know we’re not where we belong.

The memory of God’s kingdom is there. 

It’s there in the stuff of the soul, the tendrils of the spirit. Like the Psalmist sang, we’re like those that dream of home. It’s submerged somewhere in our brain or our soul perhaps, but we know, we know, the truth is there, in your heart, the whole time.

We see glimpses of it, we’re reminded, we have a hunch or a memory we can’t quite grasp if we try to look at it full on. It drifts like smoke or storms in like flashes of lightening-insight or takes our breath: we make love, we learn, we sing, we watch the stars come out, we care, we connect, we labour, we carry, we nurse, we cry, we dance, we witness restoration in a million tiny ways.

We have these moments of transcendence, like the veil between heaven and earth is fluttering, we can’t breathe for the loveliness of the world and each other, and just like that, we remember something. 

Our skin is made of dust and we often catch the perfumed scent of the Garden in the cool of the evening, and we know, somewhere inside, we’re supposed to be walking with God, unashamed still.

I wonder if that’s really what happens when we meet Jesus. It’s not that we meet him, or that we believe in him, or that we “invite him into our hearts” or that we mentally assent to some non-negotiable truths that will govern your best life now.

No, I think it’s that we recognise him. 

I think that part of soul, our spirit, our bodies, our minds, locks into focus. It wasn’t a dream, no, that is what is real. When we cross the threshold of faith, we enter into an awareness that the Kingdom of God has already come.

And we realise, Oh, my God, I always knew, I always knew, the truth was there, in my heart, the whole time. We couldn’t articulate it, if we tried to say it out loud it sounded foolish. So instead the inexplicable longing resides until it is fulfilled: the Kingdom of God. Love, hope, joy, peace, kindness, all of it. This is what God intended for us. This is what we are moving towards, every day, the restoration of this beautiful home, the redemption of all of us, the rescue of all of us from the false life that we think is real. We were made for this life instead. We’re home.

edited from the archives

 

"People with guns to their heads cannot mourn" :: a response to Doctor Who, Mummy on the Orient Express
More than metaphors: on bearing witness to baptism
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